If you’re a fan of single-cylinder motorcycles, much of the news you’ve consumed lately has probably been about slower bikes like a Royal Enfield or perhaps Triumph’s new 400 singles. Aside from KTM’s fare, there’s not much choice if you want a big single. Ducati wants to change that with its new Superquadro Mono engine. This 659cc thumper makes 77.5 HP at a screaming 9,750 RPM stock or a whole 85 HP when equipped with racing pipes. Ducati is calling the engine the “most high-performance road-going single-cylinder engine ever” and I need it in my life.
Single-cylinders have been on a bit of a revival in recent years. While some brands, like KTM and Royal Enfield, have printed out single after single, other motorcycle brands are discovering that riders will not just ride a thumper, but love it! Thanks to this, riders are gaining choices in the market like the BMW G 310 GS, the BSA Gold Star 650, the Triumph Speed 400, the Triumph Scrambler 400 X, and more bikes I’m sure I’m missing. The point is, singles are in right now and if you love the feel and romance of a single as much as I do, Ducati is rolling out some serious eye candy.
30 Years In The Making
It’s been a bit over 30 years since Ducati last offered a single in a roadgoing machine. Honestly, the last single offered by Ducati was barely a production vehicle with just 67 units ever produced. Ducati was founded as Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati in 1926 by Antonio Cavalieri Ducati with his brothers Adriano, Bruno and Marcello. Adriano was riding the wave of technological advancement going on in Bologna. Guglielmo Marconi invented radiotelegraphy while Adriano patented a short-wave transmitter that reached the United States. The company launched with products like capacitors, vacuum tubes, condensers, and more.
Ducati continued building technology products until the United States Army Air Forces’s Operation Pancake bombings destroyed its factory in October 1944. The company says after the war, it decided to shift its manufacturing. At first, Ducati made its name in the motorcycling world with creations like the Cucciolo motorized bicycle, the Gran Sport 125 Marianna racer, and the 125 GP Desmo.
All of them were singles and Ducati says that 125 GP Desmo represented the peak of Ducati’s single-cylinder development. That bike introduced Ducati’s famed desmodromic valve timing. Ducati continued to build quick singles until 1974, when the brand began to focus on engines with more pistons firing.
Fast-forward to 1990, and as Motorcycle.com writes, Ducati’s then-engineering chief Massimo Bordi championed a project to create the perfect single-cylinder motorcycle. This motorcycle would be a thrill ride on the street and on the track in Sound of Singles racing while honoring Ducati’s past of raucous singles. Design work would be carried out by Ducati’s legendary designer Pierre Terblanche while Claudio Domenicali joined Bordi in chassis development work. Development was led by Gianluigi Mengoli.
Out of the other side came the 1993 Ducati Supermono. What made this motorcycle special was its engine. During development, the team went through a couple of iterations of the engine. The original design took a Ducati 90-degree V-twin, lobbed off a cylinder, but kept a dummy piston. [Editor’s Note: Wait, what? – JT] This 487cc engine had just 53 HP. A later iteration saw the power bumped to 57 HP.
A breakthrough happened when Bordi implemented a counterbalancing system that consisted of a second connecting rod, but that rod connected to a rod that pivoted on a pin. The engine’s innards look like a twin missing a piston. This allowed the engine to punch out more power while remaining smoother than a typical single. The result? 62.5 HP. Further development saw the displacement upped to 502cc and 70 HP before the final iteration rolled out with a 549cc making 75 HP and capable of roaring to 11,000 RPM. Oh, and did I say the whole motorcycle weighed just 220 pounds? Sadly, Ducati sold just 67 of them, so you’re unlikely to see one anytime soon, let alone even touch one.
Fear not, because 30 years after the launch of the Supermono, Ducati is doing it again.
The World’s Most Powerful Roadgoing Single
At the end of October, Ducati announced that it’s back in the game of singles, and it’s taking a big swing doing it. The Superquadro Mono sounds like a masterpiece. Like the engine that came before it, Duc cut down a twin as the base of this engine, from Ducati:
This single-cylinder, designed by choosing refined materials and solutions for each component, is based on the Panigale 1299 engine, the 1285 cc Superquadro, which represents the maximum evolution of the Ducati street-legal twin-cylinder. The Superquadro Mono inherits the 116 mm diameter piston from the Panigale engine, the shape of the combustion chamber, the 46.8 mm diameter titanium intake valves, the 38.2 mm steel exhaust valves and the Desmodromic system.
The name Superquadro comes from the extreme ratio between bore and stroke which allows, thanks to the very short stroke, to reach rotation speeds typical of racing engines. On the Superquadro Mono this ratio is equal to 1.86 and is the most extreme in the category thanks to a stroke of just 62.4 mm. The record bore of 116 mm allows the adoption of large diameter valves to benefit performance, which however would not be possible without the Desmodromic system. This system, which Ducati also uses on the MotoGP bikes, allows the limits imposed by the valve springs to be overcome, enabling extreme valve lift laws. In this way, the Desmodromic system contributes significantly both to performance and to the possibility of reaching very high rotation speeds.
Ducati says that because of these changes, the Superquadro Mono punches out 77.5 HP at 9,750 RPM before bumping up against the limiter at 10,250 RPM. Torque is 46 lb-ft and it comes on at 8,050 RPM. Further, Ducati says that in racing configuration with a Termignoni exhaust, power is 85 HP coming on at 9,500 RPM with torque bumping up to 49 lb-ft. So, this is an engine you’ll need to wring out to get that power.
The impressive engineering continues with a die-cast engine crankcases with an integrated water jacket around an aluminum cylinder barrel.
Ducati says this setup allows for lower weight, better cooling, and allows for the head to be fixed directly to the crankcase, reducing overall engine size. The clutch, alternator, and head covers are made out of a magnesium alloy while the crankshaft is asymmetrical and mounted on differentiated main bearings. This is done to keep weight down and two countershafts join in the fray to keep vibes down to about the level of a 90-degree V-twin.
Ducati even seems to have put a lot of work into the transmission, from Ducati:
The transmission relies on a six-speed gearbox with racing ratios derived from the experience gained with the Panigale V4. The first gear is in fact long to allow its use in slow corners, exploiting the maximum thrust available. The clutch is in an oil bath with progressive interlocking hydraulic control, characterized by a particularly reduced lever load and specifically developed to offer easy and intuitive braking behaviour, with maximum modulability on release and in engine brake management to facilitate power-sliding in corner entry.
The gearbox can be equipped with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) Up & Down. In this application, the DQS relies on a magnetic hall effect sensor and not the traditional load cell to improve accuracy and reliability.
Ducati is calling this plant the “most high-performance road-going single-cylinder engine ever.” The “road-going” part of that statement is important. There have been more powerful singles, such as Cosworth’s 300cc single-cylinder F1 engine that made 90 HP. There’s also the century-old Otto 175 HP, which is pretty gargantuan in size. Both make more power but aren’t engines made for production machines. So, Ducati may be right here.
It’s also notable that Ducati’s 659cc single is a wee bit smaller than KTM’s 690 LC4 big single, but makes more horsepower than the KTM’s 74 ponies. That said, the KTM in supermoto configuration nips at the Ducati with its 54 lb-ft of torque which hits at 6,500 RPM.
As of right now, Ducati is teasing only the engine. The company says you’ll get to see the first bike with the new engine tomorrow during the company’s Ducati World Première 2024 “Live. Play. Ride” event happening at 4 p.m. Central European Time on Ducati’s site and YouTube channel. Ducati doesn’t give us any more hints but does say the engine will have a detuned version for European A2 license holders.
I’m happy to see singles getting some attention. Sure, 85 HP isn’t going to light the world on fire, but that’s still good power for a single. The Superquadro Mono should make for some seriously fun motorcycles and I can’t wait to see what Ducati has in store.
- I Saw A Production-Spec Tesla Cybertruck And It Looks Good. Here Are A Bunch Of Pics So You Can Judge For Yourself
- What It Takes To Drive A Car Upside Down, From A Man Who Aims To Try It
- The 2024 Porsche Panamera Gets A Fancy Active Suspension, Reportedly Kills The Wagon
- This Banned Toyota Truck Ad Is Another Strike In The War Against Off-Roading